6 Immutable Laws of the Cowboy Hat

Ever wondered how to wear a cowboy hat? Here are a few rules on what and what not to do…

5671810_m

cowboyhat1

Your hat’s “restful stance”

Rest It Properly

You know how you prefer to kick back on the couch with your feet up in your “restful stance?” Your cowboy hat has a “restful stance” too. You never want to set it down on a flat surface with the brim-side down.

Why? Well, hats have a memory. If you constantly store your hat with the brim resting on a flat surface, the shape will slowly start to change and the brim will get pushed up in certain places where it makes contact with the table, counter or dresser.

Always “rest” your hat with the crown on the bottom. The crown is stiffer than the brim and tends to hold its shape better.

Keep it on Your Head

Most first-time hat buyers end up with a hat that’s too big. They don’t realize that hats should be tight – sometimes on the verge of being uncomfortably  tight.

When I take my straw hat off after wearing it all day I have a noticeable red spot on my forehead where it grips my skull. Hats expand with heat, so if your hat is tight, it will loosen up on a warm day when you are sweating. Hopefully it’s tight enough when you buy it to stay on regardless.

Felt hats tend to stay on better than straw hats, especially in the wind, so they don’t have to be quite as tight. And hats also conform to your head over time, so even if it doesn’t feel quite right on your head at first, it will likely adjust.

The reason for the tight hat is simple. When you are riding, whether at a rodeo or out trailing cows on a ranch, the last thing you want is to be getting off your horse every five minutes chasing that fancy new hat. It’s not just an inconvenience, it’s also downright problematic. If you have a herd of cows bunched up and you have to go chasing after your hat, your whole operation will crumble down around you. Plus, a brand new hat can look worn out in a hurry after being blown across the Nevada desert.

My dad feels so strongly about the importance of keeping ones hat on ones head, that he has been known to tell his cutting horse customers that if their hat falls off while they are competing, they will receive an automatic 60 (the lowest score you can get). I know a few have actually believed him. Which brings up another unrelated point…read the RULE BOOK people, but I digress.

Your final option for keeping your hat on without squeezing your melon so tightly is to add a stampede string. Just note, that you will rarely see a stampede string on a rodeo cowboy and I think there are a lot of traditional cowboys that have a hard time drilling holes in their hat for the string. That being said, if you are comfortable with it, go for it. It is a far better alternative than chasing your hat through the sagebrush.

One final note on keeping your hat on, pay attention to the brim size. Especially with straw hats, if you have a big 6″ brim, you better be somewhere where the weather patterns do not include wind. A wide brim is great for keeping the sun off, but if you are trailing cows in Southwestern Montana, the wind will make your hat into a flying saucer  in no time flat.

Never Set it on the Bed

This may be more of a superstition than a hard and fast rule, per se, but I know some folks who would sooner chew off their arm than allow this to happen.

It is well-known in the rodeo world that if your hat is set on the bed, usually by someone other than you, that you might as well turn out (basically pull out out of the rodeo) that day because the cards are stacked against you in a big way.

Now, there are rituals that may be performed to reverse the damning effects of “hat on the bed,” and they vary depending on geography, heritage, and how much you actually believe in all this nonsense. But one practice that I am familiar with is the “spit, throw, and stomp” method.

Step 1: Spit in the hat.
Step 2: Throw the hat on the ground.
Step 3: Stomp on the hat.

Personally, I think I would have a hard time stomping on a perfectly good hat, but to each his own. Apparently, the ritual releases the bad “ju ju” and you are back in the game.

Keep Your Hands on Your Own Hat

Cowboys are darn serious when it comes to their hats. Basically, don’t mess with a hat that doesn’t belong to you. If you are itching to pick a fight, the fastest way to do it is to knock the hat off a cowboy’s head. But I really wouldn’t recommend it.

It should go without saying that you don’t wear another man’s hat. Accept, on the very rare occasion when you show up to the rodeo after the airline loses all your luggage and for some reason your hat was in there instead of on your head. Then it is perfectly acceptable for your buddy to offer his hat to you and for you to wear it.

Now, there is one final caveat to be noted when it comes to removing and or wearing another man’s hat. And that applies when the remover or wearer of said hat is a woman. Many guys are probably still going to be a little annoyed unless the woman is extremely attractive. But, I was always told that if a woman puts a man’s hat on her head, she is sending him a message that she plans on removing more of his attire at a later time.

The bow goes to the back. It appears a tutorial on hat cleaning may be in order next.

The bow goes to the back. It appears a tutorial on hat cleaning may be in order next.

The Bow Goes to the Back

This is a simple one, but oh, so important. The little bow inside your hat’s sweatband indicates the rear of your hat. Not unlike the tag in the back of your shirt. A cowboy hat has a distinctive front and back. People who are familiar with cowboy hats can tell within a millisecond whether you are wearing yours correctly.

However, they may not share that information with you.

You know how it is…when you see someone with their zipper down…do I tell them and save them additional future embarrassment by embarrassing them in the moment…at the same time admitting I was looking “down there?”

Your Hat Tells Your Story

There is perhaps no other item of cowboy attire that is more telling than a man’s hat. Dyed-in-the-wool western folks can look at a cowboy hat and know instantly whether the wearer is a bull rider, rancher, buckaroo, or stockbroker. The characteristics detected by the eye including shape, material, wear, cleanliness, and color race through the brain in a fraction of a second producing an output that can only be described as judgement. It might go something like this:

I spy with my little eye a spotless flat-brim hat, gray, with a telescoping crown and a beaded edge.

The flat brim and telescoping crown scream “Buckaroo” in a big way. This is intentional.

The word “buckaroo” comes from the word “vaquero” because many of the first cowboys in America were Spanish and white guys had a hard time pronouncing it correctly. The highest density of this cowboy subculture exists in the Great Basin region of Northern Nevada and California. The buckaroo embraces the early vaquero traditions, including the way he trains his horse and the way he snags a calf’s hind legs in the branding trap at the end of a 50′ length of rope. You’ll often find him braiding rawhide and rolling his own cigarettes. And of course, wearing a flat brim hat with a telescoping crown.

Now, back to this hat.

Without ever opening his mouth, I know this man identifies with the early traditions, or at least wants to present himself that way. I know that he cares about the way he looks when he goes to town.

I never actually mentioned where I spotted him, but let’s just say it’s at a rodeo or horse show or something like that. The context actually does matter because if he is on a ranch, my brain will take that into account as well.

The fact that his hat looks brand new leads me to narrow my judgement to two conclusions, either A.) This guy does not do any actual work in his hat because it’s too clean. Therefore this is probably not a working cowboy or B.) This guy likes to dress up to go into town and he’s wearing his “good” hat.

Now, the characteristic of the hat that leads me to my final conclusion is the beaded edge. That tells me that this guy does not make a living as a cowboy and probably is “more hat than cattle.” Why? Because a beaded edge isn’t really practical for a hat that gets a lot of wear (the beads might eventually come off). And chances are, even if it’s his “good hat,” it will eventually end up in the “working hat” rotation at some point. Not always the case, but often times it is.

I say all this to say, even if you don’t realize it , your hat is telling a story. And the person who is reading it, probably isn’t even conscious that he is doing it. Sometimes his judgment is spot-on. Other times, once he actually talks to the person, he realizes that he was completely off the mark.

So, when you go to buy a hat, know the story you want it to tell based on your personality and aspirations. But when you open your mouth, just be you.

Have additional advice or questions? Leave them in the comments below. Or click here.

This Post Has 85 Comments

  1. Sally

    Thanks will share this. Believe it or not these days the younger the kid the less they know. Half of them do t know how to “rest it” properly.

    1. Shane

      I do, my dad taught me well 😊 by the way im 16

  2. Anastasia

    Love this article and all the other style ones too!

  3. DMC in UT

    We thoroughly enjoyed your article. It was very well written, enjoyable to read, and I learned a lot. My daughter and I are cowboy and cowgirl “wannabes”. She’s an officer in her high school FFA chapter and got me interested in all this cowboy craziness. She’s way more into it than I am, but she talked me into buying a cowboy hat. Now all I need is the courage to where it out in public…lol.

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      I love it! Start at a venue with a lot of other hats present, like a rodeo. Then you won’t feel so out of place. Eventually, you won’t even think about it anymore!

      1. DMC in UT

        Thanks Alyssa! That’s a great suggestion. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    2. J

      Yeah. Same here. Went to the wild west show here in Arizona and bought a hat. And i always want to wear it…but i feel like its something you have to earn. But. I suppose the only way to earn the right to wear it, is to wear it when i work to earn it.

      1. James Bowlin

        Wear a Cowboy hat proudly. It is a part of history and tradition of the West. Be proud to stand out. That hat says a lot about You.

      2. Mark in Texas

        DMC in UT, a cowboy hat is a unique part of American history. Think of it like the American flag. Flying the flag is a symbol of patriotism. You don’t have to be a military veteran to fly the flag. You don’t have to “earn it”. The only way to earn a cowboy hat would be to work in the industry (cattle ranching, rodeo, horse training, etc.). Most people will never work in those fields. If you haven’t worked in those fields but wear a cowboy hat, you are simply paying respect to those who do and to your American heritage. You’re simply acknowledging and respecting American history. So look at it that way. You don’t have to earn a cowboy hat. Wear it and care for it properly like you would the American flag, and that’s all the “earning” you need to do.

    3. Col. Jankoski

      Hell friend, it doesn’t take courage to wear a hat in public, it takes courage to give me guff for wearing mine in public. I don’t live in Texas though I’m in Kentucky where the manners are a lot like Texas we say yes Mam and yes sir, we open doors for ladies and we wear wrangler jeans with a pressed seem that’s sorta worn into the jeans…..We take our hats off indoors, unless it’s a bar that encourages you to leave em on…….you’ll know when you see one. We know the bow goes in the back and to rest them on the crown, we wear straw hats to work in that once they start looking gross, they actually get more functional. I have to say that the hat culture in the US is dying out and I would love to go back to the way it was through the 60’s as only it applies to hats and cars! Everyone wore hats so wearing a cowboy hat didn’t make you seem all that “different” I spend a lot of time in Texas as as a lot of my friends and Family are there, places out around Ft. Worth they all wear hats and drive big lifted trucks and almost all have served our country. I have found that being cowboy in this day and age is less about wrangling steers then it is a way of life resplendent with respect, patriotism, love of family and faith.People that live Cowboy Way, treat each other with respect they view life as precious …..( unless your trying or God forbid harming one of our family or friends) God Family Country means something and maybe the Cowboy hat is an easy way to spot em but best wait to hear em speak first, or watch to see if they hold the door for a lady or overhear them correct the waitress with a “Ladies First” when she comes to him first to order…..oh yea Momma’s see they are at the top of the list always always take care of yer Momma, oh ya. One more thing……don’t forget the Apple Pie!

      Don’t wait for Courage friend, wear the Hat!

      Kevin

      1. Bill Peterson

        Hey Kevin , I live in NC . I am confined to a wheelchair because I lost a leg due to an accident and im in my 60’s . I don’t work a ranch or live on a farm , never had but I love exactly what you described as the “cowboy way” and have lived life in that manner . Will I look OK wearing a cowboy hat confined to a wheelchair ? Thank you for your time.
        BIll

        1. Alyssa Barnes
          Alyssa Barnes

          I’m just going to butt in here and say, yes! I know plenty of people in wheelchairs who look great in cowboy hats. Look for Amberley Snyder or Michael Richardson online for some inspiration!

        2. Kevin

          Bill, I neglected to mention as I usually don’t post it that I am wheelchair bound these days due to my military service and I say hell yes….I look fine in mine : http://www.quantumrehab.com/quantum-profiles-in-motion/kevin-jankoski.asp

          Course as I was inside I am not wearing my hat here!

      2. Robert

        Amen brother! I myself live in Kentucky, and it is way of life for me and many others around here! I don’t have a farm (yet). And have lived in the city a time or two! But you will never catch me without a hat! You said it all to well to add to! All I can say is, GOD GUTS and GLORY!

      3. Michael Hollingsworth

        That (from Col. Jankoski) is the best description/explanation of hat wearing I’ve ever read . Most hat wearing folks out West, including the great state of Texas, don’t have cattle or even horses. What they have is a born & bred respect for Western culture which is a sacred love of family, faith, country and wearing a “cowboy hat” symbolizes that respect and awareness. It ain’t about the cattle and it ain’t about the horses. It’s about living the “Code” of the West.

  4. John Garrett

    Bullet point 1 is very very wrong – ‘Always rest your hat with the crown on the bottom.’

    No, this will result in holes in your beloved beaver. I beaver felt hat should always be hung on a peg, a nail or any available point in the house where it is safe – keep it away from the pot belly stove or any blue heeler puppies.

    If you can’t find a place to hang your hat then set it flat on the brim, if you’re that worried about the cosmetics of the thing you’re in the wrong business. The hat is a tool, not a damn head ornament.

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      I agree. Hats should be hung up to store when not kept in a box and whenever there is an option to do so. I’m sure we could debate the other point until the cows come home. Either way, I am just happy to see people wearing cowboy hats and supporting this way of life, whether they treat their hat as a tool or a head ornament.

      1. Col. Jankoski

        One small clarification to my earlier post:

        I always keep my hat on the coat rack hanging it on a peg……that being said if your somewhere that doesn’t have a peg or nail see below:

        Brim or crown? If it’s a straw hat or a Wool Felt hat put it Crown Down, for Beaver Felt always on the brim to avoid wearing “Bare Spots” in the beaver. Please no crass comments folks I know this is a slippery slope don’t attempt to remove my thoughts that our culture is one of Manners!

    2. Caballo

      Incorrect. I’ve never had a hat get holes because of resting on the crown. Nor do I know any cowboy who’s had this problem. Pegs are okay for short term, but one could argue that the weight of the hat can distort the shape of your fitting if hung too long.

    3. Steve

      I always put my hat softly on top of an old helmet brim down. I never push it down. Seem to work pretty good and avoids both flattening the brim and wear on the crown. The helmet has a cloth camouflage cover so it doesn’t wear the inside.

  5. Wulf Fahimi

    As always perfect … just go on

  6. Jodie

    Awesome article. Years ago a bull rider I dated once told me that you never set your hat on its brim. The reason was not because of the shape, but because all the luck will collect in the hat. All of the luck will fall out on the table instead of on you if you store it brim side down. :-)

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      I had never heard that until recently (since I wrote this post) but it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Jeff Talbut

      yep.

  7. Roger

    Hi guys! I am too a big Cowboy hat kinda guy! just got my 14th Hat today, But living in Ohio you don’t see many guys use these but I wear mine every single day. Some times I worry about what people think, but I just cant seem to put my hats down for the love! I see at as this. A Cowboy can be anywhere as long he knows his rules for the Hat. When to take it off greeting folks to sitting down at a dinner table. I always wish these would come back into style Thanks Y’all!

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      I love that you are proud to wear your hats! As Keith Mundee, president of American Hat Company says, “If you live the western lifestyle or love the western lifestyle, you should wear a cowboy hat.”

    2. Bob Jacobson

      I live in Ohio, too, and I wear my hat anytime I’m going to be outside for more than a few minutes. I give botanical presentations all over the country in addition to other fieldwork, and I always have it along with me even though I grew up in metro NYC. I’ll even wear it when in Central Park (NYC) giving a presentation, and I can’t recall anyone ever giving me a strange look–actually, I sometimes get compliments on it. I don’t pretend to be a cowboy although I love the western US and plan to settle there in a year or so. It does a great job of keeping the sun off my skin and out of my eyes, and I just don’t feel at home in a baseball cap or other kind of hat. This is about my fourth one, and when I bought my first one in Wyoming before many of you were born, I was instructed about resting the hat upside down, which I make a point of doing.

    3. nick

      Feel the same way as you, Roger. I live in WI and almost never see other guys wearing a cowboy hat. Not many wear boots and even less wear cowboy hats. I have both a straw and black felt hat. Rarely do I wear either of them in public and when I have, I feel as if everyone is staring and snickering at me. To be honest, I actually feel the same way when I wear my cowboy boots, but they draw less attention than a cowboy hat. Kudos to all of you who do wear your hat in public. Although I’d love to get more use out of my cowboy hats, my usual is to wear one of my many baseball caps when I wear my cowboy boots.

      1. Col. Jankoski

        Nick let me ask you,

        Why do you care? Who gives a coyote fart what others think? Did you ever think that they look at you and smile and laugh because the look at you and think, there’s a guy who’s tough as nails, he makes a statement wherever he goes without meaning to. Geeze I want to be like that guy? STOP giving a Tinkers Damn about what others think. That’s what Cowboy Way is. Cut your own trail don’t expect others to follow cause it would be too tough. In a way you must think there the ones that are a lil off……hell don’t they all realize the utility of the hat? Now I got a head what’s so big without. My hat they’re call me the great punkin! Cut your own trail…..life is way too short. I wear my hat with everything not just when I am wearin Rogers with a ridin heal. Sometimes I wear it with work boots or my combat boots don’t matter! Good luck!

        1. Gary M.

          Thanks Col. Jankoski for your advise.

          I’ve owned a felt and straw cowboy hat for many years, but like others were concerned about wearing in pubic. I decided to heck with what others might think about the hat and wear it because I like how it looks and what it stand for – western way of life. It goes well with the western shirts, Wrangler Jeans with a big rodeo belt buckle, and cowboy boots I already wear.

          It is amazing how many more greetings I get when I meet people on the street and some even compliment me when wearing my hat. I live in a small rural community in Wisconsin and not many guys around here wear cowboy hats but maybe that will change.

      2. Max Wojcik

        I’m not too young to admit it: it did take me a few years to be comfortable wearing a hat. So dramatic, and an article of clothing closest to your face. ‘Do I deserve it?’ I liked to tell the true story that a 4th gen, pop30town MT ranchhand bought me my first one, said I’d earned it more than any of the other big hat bankers in Sheridan WY. Still, I had to tell the story, which makes a guy nervous in the first place.
        I went to wearing them to keep stage spot lights out of my eyes, so I could see the audience. Then got good to keep sun off face w/o greasy block… Then I noticed not having to wear sunglasses in AZ days. Suddenly I could see the speedometer as easy as the road. Stopped stepping out of the house w/o one.
        Then I moved to TN and worked thru my first good rain, wearing a 100% beaver. And I’ve never looked back. Later the winter came and it’s about as good as any woolen beanie. A handmade straw from Equador I got in Bisbee AZ is the most ventilated shade you’ll find.
        Now I’ve got three straws (including the original my friend bought me 20yrs ago) and am saving for an 89Z from Santa Fe. Got four felts, last one built on a block I made myself. Going to TX this summer to learn how to make a mink that’ll be built on same block. You’ll now never see me hatless, unless you see me inside my house.
        Here’s the point. Wear one to use one. When you find out how great they work, you’ll never be nervous again.
        PS- The ‘hat off in a restaurant’ is over. No one in WY or MT does, and if they don’t? It’s cuz there’s no hat rooms anymore. And a guy ain’t gonna hand his hat to some greasy handed waiter, and watch $600 walk out of sight. If you buy one wear it till you love it, and you’ll never leave it.

      3. Steve

        Nick, I live in WI as well. I have 3 pairs of cowboy boots and wear them whenever I’m not wearing shorts. I also wear a cowboy hat regularly; straw in the warmer weather and felt in cooler weather. I live in an urban area and just don’t give a damn whether people like it or not. I have a 19 year old daughter who is a pretty normal 19 year old and she’s completely on board with dad being dad. So, if you like ’em, wear ’em.

    4. Byron Hidalgo

      Roger, wear your hat proudly, even if you are the only one in the world. Once a cowboy, always a cowboy.

  8. Wayne Turnmire

    The same thing in NW Florida, not alot of cowboy hats. I get all kinds of looks. But for a bald guy its great for the Florida sun. They looks awesome with my Sunday go to meeting clothes. I’m having one made by Don Livingston from San Antonio. Can’t wait.

  9. Trooper

    Western is just about all I wear…weekdays and Sunday. It’s getting harder and harder to find quality stuff these days; especially if you don’t live in cattle country…. I have to travel at least a hundred mikes to find decent store that caters to cowboys and not the guy looking for a “shady brady” …. I have several hats that almost fifty years old and look almost new, but I really like the ones my horses have “nosed” off my head and have the earmarks of someone who knows what horse manure smells like and actually takes a deep breath when I hug my horse!

  10. Reed Riffs

    Good read. I inhereted my uncle’s old Stetson and got it shaped. Its a little too big but I don’t often work in high wind or on a horse. I like the whiskey, gambling, and guitar pickin side of western life. More of an outlaw than a cowboy but at least now I know my stuff.

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      Thank you Reed. You can always use a little weather stripping inside the sweatband if you need to snug it up a little. I think most cowboys have a little outlaw in them too. 😉

      1. Shane

        Thanks for the tip. I just got my first oil-skin hat for Christmas to go with my oil-skin duster and it’s just a little loose; but not enough to exchange it for a smaller size. I was thinking about padding it with something to snug it up; weather stripping sounds like a great idea.

  11. William Hall

    I agree with: your hat is a tool. A grungy old sweat soaked hat is the epidemy of a true cowboy who loves the western style and cowboy life. The more wear and tear, the more character. Most every cowboy hat wearer gets a new one or has a got to meetin’ hat. The measure of a man should not be determined by the hat.

  12. Dominic

    Hey all. I am originally From New Mexico, but have been raised in Tucson, Arizona. I have always enjoyed and respected the cowboy way and lifestyle. This being said. I used to wear cowboy hats when I was younger, but as I got older just kind of stopped wearing them. Now that I am in my 30’s I would like to get back into wearing them. Problem is I am a bigger guy and don’t want to look ridiculous wearing one. I am trying to raise all 4 of my daughters to be respectful of different cultures and they love the cowboy/girl culture. So do you all think it is okay for a bigger man to wear a cowboy hat? I mean I respect the culture and am actually looking into getting some horses and getting back to the lifestyle I had as a younger child. I would love my children to grow up this way. Any opinions would be great. Thank you for your time.

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      Absolutely! Hats come in all different shapes and sizes. A bigger guy just may need a bigger hat. Go to a hat store where they can help you choose the right crown/brim size and shape to complement your physique.

      1. Col. Jankoski

        Yes Mam Hoss Cartwright was a big man, read an article that he had a tough time filming bonanza till they found him that big hat he wore……they had big Cowboys way back when…..heck I’m 6’2 255 not exactly small and no one NO ONE has ever gived me a hard time.

    2. Dave

      Dominic, wear that hat with pride. If you ride up to the Arizona Strip you’ll see that cowmen come in all shapes and sizes. Some are stick skinny and wear 32×38 jeans, and some of us are built more for draft horses and the saloon at the end of the workday on Friday. Somebody’s got to lift the heavy things up on the ranch, and it ain’t gonna be some scrawny little man-boy. Chances are you think you stick out more than you do. A friendly smile and a tip of the brim to a lady and nobody will care what size you are.

    3. Mike

      Dominic-
      I’m a big guy myself, get yourself a square crown with a wide brim. Or “Bull Rider” style brim.
      You will look great in it as a bigger guy.

      I recently got into bull riding and was still a little self conscious about wearing my hat outside of the rodeo. I found the best way to kinda break yourself into it is to start wearing it outside of the rodeo with a buddy who is also willing to wear his/hers. Sorta ease into it.
      My buddy is my son who was more then willing to wear hit New hat EVERYWHERE haha I think he felt good about me wearing it with him, but really he made me feel good that he was wearing his with me… :)

      Hope this helped!
      Take care
      Mike

    4. Shane

      Its never to late to start again!

  13. Michelle

    Great article; I agree that the hat should be a tool which is why I’m having a hard time getting the courage to even get a hat. I never worked on a farm (except that one time I helped a friend with getting hay for the horses), and I never really considered myself a country girl, but I’ve been slowly getting more into it since I moved to the south. Went to my first rodeo last month, it was awesome. Thinking about buying a hat to really fit in next time :)

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      You should definitely do it! Cowboy hats are for those who LIVE the western lifestyle AND those who LOVE the western lifestyle. You’ve got this!

  14. Betty Langley

    Why do so many movie cowboy hats have a cut on the front of the crown?

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      You might have to show me a picture, Betty. I’m not sure what you are referring to. Do you mean the shape of the hat or an actual cut?

    2. Shane

      Are you referring to the pinched front crease?

  15. Taber

    Great article, website, and podcast! Thank you for working so hard to put it all together. I was lucky enough to have a custom beaver felt hat made for me in Wyoming. I’m an archaeologist so I work outside in all kinds of weather and seasons. This summer I’ll be working in New England and I’d love to wear my hat while I work but I’m worried that with the heat (usually in the 80s) and a fair amount of humidity I might be setting myself up for one hot head. I know a lot of old-time cowboys only had one hat all year-round but I was wondering if you know people who wear felt hats through the summer (particularly in kind of humid spots), or if I should give in and get a straw one. Thanks a lot for your input!

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      There are some die hards that wear felt year round, but in that kind of weather I say do yourself a favor and get a nice straw!

      1. Taber

        Good to know, thank you!

  16. Dave the Texian

    I’m a native Texan and grew up in a small town west of Fort Worth (where I now live). I’ve owned cheap cowboy hats and boots on and off but only wore them for special occasions, essentially as a costume. I recently retired and, having become tired of having the skin cancers cut off of my face, decided to try cowboy hats full time. (I also grew a full, well-trimmed beard and mustache, having been clean-shaven all my life, so maybe this is all just a late-life crisis…) Unlike some of the other commenters, I wasn’t concerned about standing out: While cowboy hats as daily wear aren’t common these days in Fort Worth, neither are they so rare as to stand out conspicuously. And it’s Fort Worth, whose city motto is “Where the West Begins.”. I went out and bought a better-quality tan wool felt and a natural palm-leaf straw. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks now and … well … they just feel _right_ like I should’ve been wearing them all my life. And I’ve not, in fact, gathered many stares or comments, at least not from adults, but I was coming out of a store the other day as a woman and little girl of 5 or so were coming in, and the little girl yelled, “Look, Mommy, it’s a COWBOY!” I just smiled, nodded, touched my brim, and kept amblin’ on.

    1. Red Nelson

      The man who can smile is the man who has style.

  17. Laurie

    I just bought a really nice custom made dark brown beaver felt hat in Santa Fe. Not because I’m a cowgirl and surely will never be mistaken for one, but after living in New Mexico for 25 years, it’s just getting into my blood. I love my new hat, and get compliments all the time. I just bought it a nice horsehair braided band with two tassels. I was told that with this kind of band, men wear the tassels to the side, while women tend to orient them at the back. Are you familiar with this custom?

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      I am not, Laurie, but I’m glad you love your hat! Maybe another commenter will come along who can shed some light on it for us…

  18. Mike

    Dominic-
    I’m a big guy myself, get yourself a square crown with a wide brim. Or “Bull Rider” style brim.
    You will look great in it as a bigger guy.

    I recently got into bull riding and was still a little self conscious about wearing my hat outside of the rodeo. I found the best way to kinda break yourself into it is to start wearing it outside of the rodeo with a buddy who is also willing to wear his/hers. Sorta ease into it.
    My buddy is my son who was more then willing to wear hit New hat EVERYWHERE haha I think he felt good about me wearing it with him, but really he made me feel good that he was wearing his with me… :)

    Hope this helped!
    Take care
    Mike

  19. Wayne

    Very interesting comments. I have worn hats and boots all my life and will never change! As to what people think about you wearing a hat? Who Cares! A real cowboy doesn’t give a —— about what people think of him or what he wears. That’s who he is and that’s it. Never, Never, Never wear your hat at a table or inside the house! As a kid, when we came in the door the cow poop boots were off and your hat was in your hand…or else!

  20. George

    Hey Country folk. I am a Long Island, NY … I guess redneck? My brother, friends and I have been

    “American” since high school… 80’s. I started buying “cowboy hats” about 8 years ago. I have several.

    but…. I have a Jason Aldene (hard straw), a Chesney hat (hard material) and just bought a Stetson

    (Felt) It’s awesome! like Josie Wales.

    Question; Is there a way to “work” the hat? Starch, or a chemical?

    To shape it…. or .. is that taboo? And let the hat be “The hat”.

    Not many people care in New York but when I go to Houston I want to do it right. And… I do NOT care

    about my Brooklyn accent. Actually, West of NY loves that. lol.

    Thank you.

    George

    USA!!!!!

    1. Alyssa Barnes
      Alyssa Barnes

      When it comes to shaping a felt hat, steam is going to be your best friend (you can use to to work your straw too). Get your tea kettle really boiling on the stove and hold your hat over it while you go to town creating your masterpiece!

      1. Col. Jankoski

        You can use a mix of liquid starch and mop and glow about 50/50 spray the felt down let it dry only 50% then use steam boil a big pot of it once you get the hat the shape you want to let her dry it’ll be solidly shaped to stay put. Old cowboy trick from my friend Wayne Kyle. A real Cowboy’s Cowboy!

  21. roy saxton

    whew…… what a hat full of dung!!!!! Why would you want to wear poopkicker hat if you didn’t have to? Dang things are always getting knocked off on door jambs and getting left behind in resturants.

    I live in the desert at high altitude so if I don’t wear a large brim hat the skin doctor wants to keep removing parts of my face due to skin cancer. I have several old dirty cowboy hats. I wear them daily and they look like it. I keep one kinda of cleaned up so when we go to town it doesn’t look I just got off a horse and fell in a cow pie. Gotta have a chin strap or the wind just carries them off so I tie a leather shoe lace with a chin slip wood bead. Keeps the stupid thing on my head when I’m high tailing it up the canyons in my Rhino. Someone the other day was admiring my unique chin bead, wanted to know where I got my chin slip, Told them, found a piece of wood next to the road, just happened to have a hole it so I carved it down to fit my hat. Could be a petrified turd for all I know? The good news is that it does ‘t smell and keeps me from having to turn around and search for the darn thing. You can always tell a newbie to the desert, they have a baseball cap on and the top of their ears are fried red! Rednecks???? never seen one of those around here, they are either brown because they have a broad brim hat on or peeling because they are to stupid to come out of the sun.

  22. Amy

    Top side up means good luck is what my old man used to say about his hat. And you’re right…never ever set it on a bed!!

  23. Nick

    I get stares all the time wearing my cowboy hats. I just got my first palm leaf in Salt Lake City.
    I get lots of stares around Portland and tacoma…
    Lots of sideways glances, like: “do you even ride horses?”
    Actually… I do!
    I’m also a trucker. So.
    I heard on the history channel (an old episode), that truckers are considered (back in the 70’s) as the last American cowboys.
    So, what’s ya all’ opinions?
    I actually never liked to wear them because I got made fun of. But my wife told me I’m more country than I think because I used to work on a farm. And that the people making fun of me are usually just jealous of the attention I get. No one has ever asked me or complimented me about it.

  24. Bill Doyle

    I am a university professor who hasn’t ridden a horse for about 30 years but I wear my cowboy hats to work every day in homage to my heritage.

    When I lived in Northern Colorado during my younger days we wouldn’t go out of the house without our hats. I am not in the least bit self conscious about it just like local hipsters are not self conscious about wearing jeans that are so tight that they look like stick men to me.

    If anybody doesn’t like it they had better keep their mouth shut, but all I’ve ever heard is compliments. I’ve even got a few of my students to switch from baseball caps to “real” hats.

    I have a good collection of Stetson Fedora’s but that’s fine with me. Sometimes your outfit looks stupid with a cowboy hat..

    Either way, a good hat makes a man look more like a man in my humble opinion, and the Good Lord knows we can use more real men in this country.

    It’s not just a matter of the hat, but it sure as heck doesn’t hurt.

  25. Churchill

    Am from Uganda and am a cowboy cap and country music diehard. I grew up listening to country music and I was always an outcast in a pop world. So by the end of high school I just decided to become a real out cast. so 2010 I bought my first pair of cowboy boots and cap and since then nobody can recognize me without a cap cause they have never seen me without one. I picked up the guitar bout three years ago and now I promote country music and cowboy culture. to me being a cowboy is a symbol of sincerity, honesty and hard workmanship. So only trust a cowboy cause he says what he means and means what he says. God bless y’all.

  26. Erik Barnes

    As far as cowboy hats, western boots and clothing go, who cares what you are wearing or what you think you look like! I suppose everyone who is not the typical “cowboy or cowgirl” at some point in your lives have put off buying a cowboy hat or western boots because you didn’t grow up on a ranch. Maybe you think people will stare or laugh and snicker at you because you don’t look like them. Or, maybe you don’t want to be labeled a “wanna-be”.
    I’m a 46 year old truck driver and I never grew up on a ranch, although I did ride horses when I was younger. I don’t know anything about being a cowboy or ranching. Who says you have to live a cowboys lifestyle to dress the western style?
    As a truck driver, I wear snip toe western boots, western jeans and my cowboy hat every day and yes, I get stares, laughs and snicker’s everywhere I go. I don’t always dress up in the nice dress western shirts but I do wear my hat and boots every day.
    When I first decided to dress in western attire a couple of years ago, I was very self concious about wearing my hat in public because once I took off my baseball cap and put on my cowboy hat, everyone stared with many double takes. People will even follow me around trying not to be conspicuous about it just to see what I am wearing. (Laughing)
    Now, I’ve realized that the laughs and stares will always continue so why should I worry about what others think? I dont!!! I don’t dress to please others! I dress for me so why should you let others dictate how you dress and feel about yourself.
    When you go into your local western shop to buy a hat, boots or a western shirt and jeans, stand in front of the mirror and if you like what you see and your comfortable wearing it, then wear it PROUD!!! Quit worrying about what others might think of you and wear what you like with confidence and pride and walk with your head held high!!!

  27. Jessie

    I remember one time when I was near eight or nine I rested my hat brim down when my family sat down to eat supper, well my dad was there and believe me he made sure I knew that resting it like that was wrong. Now I make sure I rest it properly

  28. Tyson

    I live in Southern California and just over a month ago I bought my first black felt cowboy hat. I work outdoors almost every day and I don’t know why it took soo long for me to buy one. I absolutely love it and its soo comfortable and protects me from the sun. I get looks all the time and honestly I don’t give a damn what people think. I love the country lifestyle. I try to represent that each day. God, family, country.

  29. Elvin Ortiz

    Which is the best hat for the summer straw or felt or any other type.

  30. Jerry Ray

    I have worn cowboy hats for almost six 5 years. My first one was a Roy Roger’s one. Now at the ripe old age of 75 I have 4 i wear pretty regular. A Stetson a Resistol, a straw from Tractor Supply but my favorite is one from Rands custom hatter’s in Montana. A HAT IS A HAT IS A HAT. Wear what’s comfortable, what you can afford and what you want to wear.your hat is you and if They don’t like it $#&k them.

  31. Joel Graham

    Why is it when you see an actor on TV or in the movies these days, wearing a cowboy hat, it always looks to me like they’ve got them on backwards?

  32. Ten Burgers

    What a bunch of foolishness (but it was fun to read). Put the hat on your head and wear it. If you’re worried about how your hat looks then life is too easy for you. Instead of worrying about whether to cock it to the left or right, try this instead: Spread your legs a little and grab your groin. What do you feel? Squeeze hard until you decide if you’re a bull or a steer. Until you get this part straight your hat is not going to fit.

    Are you a stock broker office type who never gets out in the trail dust and your hat has no sweat stains? Then wear it clean. Be proud of who you are and what you do. I work hard for my money. My hat is a freakin’ mess. It has holes, all kinds of stains, and has been run over by an 18-wheeler. When I go to my stock broker in my ugly dirty hat I want him to not be a phony. If I see a dirty hat on him my money goes somewhere else. I know he is living in a fantasy world. I don’t want Mr. Wanna Be investing my few hard-earned dollars.

    All the wanna-be cowboys forget the real spirit of a cowboy. If you don’t have that same spirit in your heart then no amount of “right hat” is going to wear like Clint on your head. What made Josey Wales a bad-ass was not his hat. So the next time you wanna know how “Clint” your hat looks on you, grab your groin and give it a good squeeze. If the guy next to you accuses you of playing with yourself knock his hat off. Then you’ll find out how Boss of the Plains you are. You’ll get all the stains, dirt, holes, and tears in your hat the real way.

    Who gives a flip how you set a hat down! During a hard day that hat is coming off your head more than once. Wind, branches, falling down, it all happens. I use a stampede string and my hat still blows off in this ever-present Texas wind. All my hat does is keep the rain, sun, and dust off the top of my head. More than once I’ve fed my horse out of it – water and grain. You want a cool stain let a horse slobber green spit all over it. I’ve used my hat to hold tools, nails, even popcorn while watching TV. My hat is a tool, not a freakin shrine I worship. I don’t judge a man by his stupid hat tricks. I look in his eyes – whether those eyes are under a wide brim or not. If he has lyin’ eyes his $1,200 felt hat means nothing. I’ll have more respect for a cheap $30 Walmart special on a real man who has no self-image challenges.

    For those who do the re-enacting gigs, I like going to those and that is where all this about hats does matter. But the hats are only the result of, the reflection of those by-gone eras. I think most know that. As far as the women and their cowgirl hats, makes no difference to me as long as they look like women, act like women. There are some real and very tough yet very sexy women in cowboy hats around here. Sparkling blue eyes and white teeth flashing a smile from under a brim makes quite a statement. But again, it’s all in the eyes! It sure the heck is not her hat I’m looking at!

  33. Lee

    Don’t meet to many anymore who can tell at a glance by the type of boots I wear the shape of my hat were I’ve been and the job I did there. I’m only 40 but shure hate seein the older ways die.

  34. Pingback: How to Pull off a Cowboy hat – Clayton Hutson

  35. Rebecca Garner Harris

    I see people in cowboy hats daily and I promise you nothing looks odd about it. It would be a sad day if people stopped wearing them because they are worried about what others think. So please wear your hat and love it.
    Rebecca in Arkansas

  36. Monday- Sw Oklahoma ...before it was Oklahoma

    I figure if a person owns the hat…cause you gottA have a hat Don’t matter if it’s white or black don’t ya worry bout that…ask o commin at it o Ray Stevens bout that …ya with me?…country is as country does…we are all on different levels depending on our upbringing,culture,herritge if you feel country in your soul or in your heart you’s bout as country as anyone person in a techno ****ed world as the next good ol boy! We ain’t got to prove nobody…I was raised with horses cows pigs roosters & married in sheep sheerers not ****ers lol ya still here??…I heard that..been throwed by mules rolled with the pigs some people name em…I had 19 bigs! Didn’t eat bacon til I was about 21… figured Arnold Penelope,pinky,and little bit was out of circulation by then . Folks be kind but don’t love your food! For crying out loud! Ray Stevens is a baligerant but fit for friending the pig

  37. Mark27

    Hi, do you allow guest posting on earnyourspurs.com ? Let me know on my e-mail :)

  38. Gary T.

    I’m a Arizona native and when I was visiting San Francisco last year I arrived wearing my normal everyday garb consisting of cowboy boots, jeans, a leather belt with my rodeo buckle my grandfather gave me and my Stetson hat. I couldn’t believe the “evil eyes” I was getting from some people in restaurants and on the street. I even overheard some young man casually mutter something about “that hayseed over there.” I’m not a confrontational person so I just let the ignorant comment ride. I’ve been to SF other times wearing my western clothing and never had any encounters with ruthless folks; but this time was different. Maybe those San Franciscians were just really POed because Trump was elected president and they see someone like me dressed in “all American” conservative cowboy garb, and automatically label me a “hayseed neocon hick.” First things first people should never be judgemental because of what one wears. Sure I like to wear boots, jeans and a nice cowboy hat. I always have since a I was in my youth during the Urban Cowboy craze. I’m not a politically conservative person and I supported Bernie Sanders. I think of Donald Trump as a loud, arrogant buffoon. Maybe next time I visit SF I’ll have to get myself a pair of Birkenstock sandals, a tye dye Tshirt and some lumpy cargo shorts to fit in visually.

  39. Brennen Hankins

    Thank you for the article.

    My hat story goes something like this: I grew up working on my grandmother’s cattle ranch, before I joined the service, and sometime around 15, I started dressing like it. I took a shine to button-ups and boots over T-shirts and Walmart sneakers, much to my grandmother’s delight (she was happy that somebody in the family did, as it meant she could see my late grandfather’s shirts being worn again), and when I was 16, she bought me my first felt, a black Bailey from a local farm and ranch store.

    Sadly, that hat was stolen from my gym locker at school my senior year, but shortly afterward, on the other side of the family, my great aunt Pat passed away. We went down to help Great Uncle Bill, who was selling his old horse ranch and moving into his antique shop, move his things. He remembered I wore hats, and he says, “Brennen, come here a minute.” He led me into his room, where he had a mess of hats hanging on the wall. “Go on and pick yourself one,” he told me.

    My head’s a little smaller than his, but out of a dozen or so hats, only one fit on my head; a brown beaver fur felt, with a Montana crown, a low brim and a embroidered leather hat band. This hat is a good 20 years older than I am, by Great Uncle Bill’s estimation (I’m 25 now), and I’ve never seen a. I fell in love with it immediately, and have worn it almost daily since, going on about 7 years now. People are so accustomed to seeing me wear it (when I’m not in uniform) that on several occasions, when I walk out without it, they don’t recognize me at first. Love that hat to death, and I’m going to do my best to maintain it so I can continue to wear it for years to come!

  40. Mark in Texas

    I disagree with one part of the article. The part that says you should buy a hat so snug that’s “almost too tight” and leaves a red mark on your head. Unlike clothes, hats don’t tend to loosen up over time. They actually temd to get tighter. That’s why they sell hat stretchers or “hat jacks”. A red spot is indicative of too much pressure being applied to the skin in one spot. It’s also known as a “hotspot”. It’s a precursor to a blister; although, it’s more common to get blisters on your feet than your head.. You don’t want hotspots on your head or feet. Boots DO loosen up over time as they break in. Not so much with hats. If your hat has a leather sweatband, it will soften, stretch, and adjust to your head over time as you sweat in it, but the hat itself can tend to get tighter regardless. Tight hats can cause a headache. They best way to make sure your had it snug enough without being too tight, is to learn your proper hat size and buy accordingly. If you’re a military veteran (as most who embrace the cowboy culture tend to be), then you should know your accurate hat size already since Uncle Sam already measured you and issued your uniform headwear accordingly. If you still have trouble keeping your hat on and don’t want your cowboy hat to blow off in the wind, use the stampede string (the chin cord). If it has a stampede string, it’s an actual, working cowboy hat. If it doesn’t, it’s decorative western wear. Both are considered legit in different applications.

  41. Terry Bush Jr.

    I wear my cowboy hat everywhere. Ive had it for over 10 plus years and if it could talk the stories it could tell. My wife likes to say real cowboys only wear their hats to town in order to impress but I showed her the difference between a real cowboy and a store bought cowboy. I have mine on a hat hook by my door,never wear it indoors or in a buisness and treat it with respect cause its lasted so long and has the look plus wear and tear as any old cowboy hat would…

  42. Michael Schaefer

    Thank you, former city slicker (retired LEO) now living in rual Iowa. Have a great acreage with critters and horses.
    Getting my first hat. NEEDED to know the etiquette thank you I appreciate it

  43. "Angus"

    Having both ranch and Scottish heritage, I own six “cowboy” hats and three tartan kilts. Wearing either in public has seldom inspired questions. Some think they’re clever and ask what’s under the kilt. My response has always been to take a look, if you’re man enough. No one ever has. No one has ever bothered to ask what’s under my hat. Whatever you wear, do it with confidence and pride and it will show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *